Brick fireplaces come in all shapes and sizes. So even if you don't want a "traditional" looking fireplace, you may find that the look and feel of brick is right for you. One of the great things about brick is that it can get old and beat up looking without losing its charm. Many fireplace owners feel that the aged look is part of that charm rather than something that detracts from it.
If you've ever seen a brand new brick fireplace, you may understand what they're talking about. The brick is all shiny and new. It gleams. It looks nice in a way, but it doesn't look "natural." You feel as though you want to take it through a season of fires to break it in. Then it will look the way a brick fireplace ought to look. Then it will have that patina that adds warmth to the home even when there isn't a fire going.
Because of this, a brick fireplace can be easy to maintain. Just keep it swept and occasionally run a damp cloth over it. You don't have to worry that the mortar is absorbing some of the ash or that the brick has gone from glossy to flat. If the bricks or mortar develop cracks, it's possible to replace only those portions that have the cracks. This can save you the time and considerable expense of replacing the entire unity.
A standard brick fireplace is wider than it is long and is surrounded by red brick. Red brick extends out the front as well to make a hearth. Other colors of brick are also possible, though most have some sort of reddishness to them. But the bricks can be more subdue, more of a gray or brown color with just a hint of red. For a rosier effect, the bricks can tend toward the pink. For a sunnier effect, they can tend toward yellow. For a darker effect, blue or black.
Even if the bricks are all the same color, you'll see some variation from brick to brick. This adds to the charm by creating random patterns in the grid work of the brick and giving the eyes something to settle on rather than presenting a vast expanse of sameness. This variation can be brought out strikingly by mixing colors of brick. A few bluish-black bricks in the midst of a series of reds can really add to the charm.
The other way to add to the charm is by presenting the bricks narrow side out in places. This can be particularly effective as a framing effect around the edge of the firebox or hearth. You can accent the effect even more if the top of the firebox is arched rather than straight.
If you have a wood-burning stove, that doesn't mean you have to forego the look of brick. You can have a brick alcove designed, higher than it is wide, to give an elegant frame to the wood stove while accommodating the chimney that rises up and then heads through the back to vent. You can even build a brick fireplace that works as a stove, raising the firebox up to a little over waist height and installing burners. The brick surroundings can give a wonderful colonial feel to the simple act of boiling water.
A brick fireplace doesn't need a whole mantle, but many owners like to put a mantle shelf above them for display purposes. For an understated effect, don't use a wooden mantel shelf. Rather have a recess built into the brick itself and use that as a mantle.